Sim Racing on a Budget!


Sim Racing can be a pretty expensive hobby, basically as expensive as you want it to be. But it really doesn't have to be and for the right price you can get a good experience!

So in this new video for RaceDepartment I decided to talk about my experience with a budget setup and of course some tips to follow that allows you to be fast and consistent.

For instance I would never advice using a normal office chair, simply because you will keep moving around, if you have a pedal set that requires some more force you will be pushed back and it can put you in a position where you need to re-adjust, so I would advice a normal chair that allows you to stay put.

When it comes to the wheel, for myself I use a Thrustmaster T300, with the addition of the Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals. These pedals have the benefit of being spring loaded. The benefit in this is that the brake itself just is much heavier then the standard one you get from Thrustmaster and you can even control it by adding heavier springs with more tension, or make it lighter doing the opposite.

Let us know in the comments below or on Youtube what your budget simulator solution looks like.
About author
J
I am a 3D artist and reviewer, this is for my own YouTube channel called Tech by Jermaine but also of course for RaceDepartment as of recently!

Comments

My budget set was a T300RS + Fanatec CSL LC pedals (1st quick upgrade from T3PA's) + TH8A shifter + Wheelstand Pro. All second hand. (without the pedal upgrade €275, I got kinda lucky, straight to the races for less then an entry level wheelbase new by itself)

At that point, an anti slip mat would keep the stand in place and the chair was in the correct position against the solid faced beck-end of my bed (with a rolled up carpet in-between to keep from slipping/scratching on the bed).

Was great!

Now I still race on a budget, just a larger one through gradual upgrading. Only left-over from the original setup is the pedal set. Soon to be upgraded by a fully decked out V3 set. About half of all the hardware still 2nd hand. Can't wait to race again as soon as I can use my left arm again (cycling accident).

* If you plan on using an office chair with a wheelstand, you can do a lot with just using a belt or tension strap securing the chair to the wheelstand. Might still move a bit left to right still, but a lot better for consistent braking.
** First thing I would do with any setup is move away from a desk clamp.
*** First hardware upgrade I would advice is a load pedal set
 
Last edited:
I'm still using an all original G25. The thing is a true survivor working for way more then a decade now. And it was used A LOT !. Bought it new at the time.
In addition, and since I also do flight sims from time to time, I have a Saitek X52 FCS where I mostly use the buttons for racing. But the stick also works great as a handbrake in DIRT f.e. Bought this one second hand but forgot the price (below 100 € for sure)
All that is screwed to a little table I got for free that I can position in front of my screen or put in a corner of the room if I don't play. Which seldom occurs cause I play almost daily. A simple kitchen chair does the job just fine.

I had a self construted rig of wood with a racing chair but the thing took up too much space and my back was hurting from the hard racing seat after longer sessions. Not getting younger :D. Building costs slighty above 100 € and sold for 50 € after years of use.

So in over a decade I spend a bit over 400 € for the hobby. That's what I call racing on a budget :)
 
Last edited:
Very new to SIM racing. My budget set-up so far.
Omega rig
T300 rs, standard pedals. ( Next upgrade )
Open wheel. Second hand £50
Office chair for now.
32 inch curved monitor. ( Works well )
Tablet with SIM dashboard. ( Which I love )
PS4 gold headset.
Everything set up in a spare dedicated room. Using old kitchen cupboards and worktop. With one cupboard missing where my rig sits in the gap. It looks really nice and once in there I'm lost for hours.

Currently contemplating Raceroom for my online racing once I've gained experience and confidence.
 
@Jermaine, when talking about the T-LCM pedals you refer to them a "Spring loaded", which is technically correct - as it is for all pedals. What makes the T-LCM more precise is the "Load Cell" sensor at the base of the springs which measures the actual pressure applied, and not the distance that the pedal moves, which is an important distinction

I guessing this something that kind of got muddled in translation - hell, I've been living in Switzerland for over 15 years and I still screw up in German.
 
Premium
Congrats Jermaine to the article. Well it´s almost the same setup i am using many years right now and i can confirm you can have enough fun even with this budget solution.

For myself, i just have no more need and space for something more professional.

To stabilize the brakes i am using just a piece of wood, which is leaning against the wall, so the brakes are fixed under pressure.

Another "home sollution" even i wouldn`t call it budget - is my chair. Yes i use a normal gaming chair from DX-Racer, but i have changed the rolling feets with fixed one´s obviously to not let the wheel move away while braking :D

WhatsApp Image 2022-06-11 at 11.11.33.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2022-06-11 at 11.11.34.jpeg


OK the chair is pretty on it´s last breath :confused:

Last buy not least i want to express my happines to see a former "opponent on the virtual tracks many years ago" writing here :inlove:

I am sure you remember the rFactor F1 Challanger League about 2007-09` and names like "justJ" or nivekbs (me) :)

Greets mate
 
One of the best upgrades I had ever done was to buy a wheel stand. For the longest time I would mount my wheel to my flimsy desk and it sucked. Finally put $100 towards GTOmega wheelstand. I had my trusty T500 RS for many years and hard mounting it to a sturdy frame was a whole new world. I would also recommend buying a wheel stand where you can later add the seat to complete the rig. Don't save every last dollar, spend a few extra bucks and get a beefy stand/rig.
So there it is, my simple advice is don't overlook wheels stands. I should've got one a long time ago.
 
Nice to read something from you, Eugene! Still remembering the "good old times" :)

About the rest:

Soon to be upgraded by a fully decked out V3 set
I had the csl elite, which are very inaccurate due to their load cell placement that measures the bending of the pedal arm, not the pressure at the bottom.
So I bought the V3.
To be honest the csl elite where better ergonomically. The V3 throttle is a bit thin without shoes and one edge will always be annoying, left or right in your foot.
And the pedals can't be adjusted left/right.
I only race without H-shifter and therefore only use the clutch for starts, pitting, rejoining after a spin etc.

I'd really like to put my brake in front of my left leg. Not possible with the V3...

So with the updated csl pedals, which finally measure the pressure at the bottom, I'd recommend them above the V3.
I didn't try them myself, but they look very very good imo!!
First hardware upgrade I would advice is a load pedal set
Amen on this though! (not the csl elite if you're not in a fully fixed position and never change the leg/foot position).
The v3's made my braking way more intuitive. No more "learning the distance" or anything.
Just practice a bit with the pedal app visible to train your muscles what's "starting input" and "100%", adjust dead zone and max force until it seems to be fully intuitive and then hit the track.

After a few days you won't think about the brakes anymore. Just press them and the car will brake like you want it to.

My lock ups rate went from almost every corner to only every few laps a little bit.
when talking about the T-LCM pedals you refer to them a "Spring loaded", which is technically correct - as it is for all pedals. What makes the T-LCM more precise is the "Load Cell" sensor at the base of the springs which measures the actual pressure applied, and not the distance that the pedal moves, which is an important distinction
It's both actually with the T-LCM.
My v3's for example only have elastomers in a lubed cylinder, the csl elite had elastomer disks on a stick.
The T-LCM have springs only, no elastomer buffer.

So although they also measure the pressure with a load cell, they feel similar to distance measuring pedals.

Not judging if that's better or worse, just an explanation about the misunderstandings I see everywhere!

There are quite a lot of mods for them, where you put an elastomer at the bottom or between the 2 springs.
 
8t depends on what you consider "on a budget". My third wheel (before, I had a formula T2 and a wingman force gt, I don't consider them as sim racing hardware) was really on a budget, a logitech driving force pro at less than 70 euros new. It is generally more expensive on second hand right now. Although my rig has completely changes, I still use it when and it works in any modern game. For sure, there are only 2 pedals and no H shifter. I assume, the modern equivalent is the thrustmaster T150 or Tmx (without the gear shift on the right side). I don't know wether it is still available, but there was a version of the T150 with a 3 pedals set. 8t was necessary to buy the H shifter (the thrustmaster one is known to.be reliable).

I cannot consider the g29 series as good because of the awful reliability issues and the incompatibility with modern games. I owned a g29, I still have the pedals set. I have sold the wheel and the H shifter, too many issues (logitech's service is really good though, they sent me a complete set when I had issues only with the weel, and they sent me 2 times a gear stick because the first replacement one did not work).
This means that, after around 2 years, you may experience lots of problems and will need to buy something else and, although these sets are the best hardware on a budget, at the end they are not.
The G25 (and maybe the G27 if I am not.wrong) is a better option because it uses the qame.driver than the driving force pro and because the issue which can occur with the wheel is fixable, whereas it is not possible on the G29. I don't how much costs this wheel on second hand, as it should.be more expansive than a driving force pro...

It seems, in fact, that, on a budget, excepted second hand wheels (and then it is your chance) and the T150, there are not a lot of options. First interesting complete solutions start at 500 or 600 euros. That's a lot of money, especially for a hobby you're not already found of. These are not what I call on a budget.

Let's face it : simracing became an expensive hobby. Low cost hardware will make you pay a mot more in a few times, to complete your set (T150) or to.replace it (G29). Unfortunately I would say that it is better to wait, keep the money, and buy something better for.the double of the price.

I think abiut myself, as I like to drive many types of.cars but, if you are not interested in old cars, just go for a sequential config, a T150 or a second hand DFP. This is simracing on a budget.
 
Premium
@Jermaine, when talking about the T-LCM pedals you refer to them a "Spring loaded", which is technically correct - as it is for all pedals. What makes the T-LCM more precise is the "Load Cell" sensor at the base of the springs which measures the actual pressure applied, and not the distance that the pedal moves, which is an important distinction

I guessing this something that kind of got muddled in translation - hell, I've been living in Switzerland for over 15 years and I still screw up in German.
Thank you for the feedback :) Will keep this in mind! (feedback is always welcome, when it comes to covering Sim related gear I am new, even though not new in sim racing of course hehe, been doing it since about 2006-07 started with a simple Ferrari GT experience (that one that does only 270 degrees of rotation hahaha)
 
Premium
Congrats Jermaine to the article. Well it´s almost the same setup i am using many years right now and i can confirm you can have enough fun even with this budget solution.

For myself, i just have no more need and space for something more professional.

To stabilize the brakes i am using just a piece of wood, which is leaning against the wall, so the brakes are fixed under pressure.

Another "home sollution" even i wouldn`t call it budget - is my chair. Yes i use a normal gaming chair from DX-Racer, but i have changed the rolling feets with fixed one´s obviously to not let the wheel move away while braking :D

View attachment 573549View attachment 573550

OK the chair is pretty on it´s last breath :confused:

Last buy not least i want to express my happines to see a former "opponent on the virtual tracks many years ago" writing here :inlove:

I am sure you remember the rFactor F1 Challanger League about 2007-09` and names like "justJ" or nivekbs (me) :)

Greets mate
Thank you Kevin :0 And I see you like living on the edge with your office chair and the small rug under it ^^ But yeah the t300 is a good set! And See you got the same pedals as well! I think they are a solid pack to just drive! Yes a lot of great options out there and a lot for a much higher price, but if you are more casual or learning, I think you can drive around with this combo for a pretty long time!
 
One of the best upgrades I had ever done was to buy a wheel stand. For the longest time I would mount my wheel to my flimsy desk and it sucked. Finally put $100 towards GTOmega wheelstand. I had my trusty T500 RS for many years and hard mounting it to a sturdy frame was a whole new world. I would also recommend buying a wheel stand where you can later add the seat to complete the rig. Don't save every last dollar, spend a few extra bucks and get a beefy stand/rig.
So there it is, my simple advice is don't overlook wheels stands. I should've got one a long time ago.
Desk racer here. I actually tried a central pole Next Level Racing wheelstand (not the cheapest one, one tier higher, for around 120 EUR IIRC). I actually found it more wobbly and had to play with it pushed to the desk which reduced the wobbles (which damaged the desk as well and left the whole configuration with less useful space). When I moved and I knew I have to get a new desk I sold the wheel stand. And I specifically chose a desk that is sturdy-ish, and where I could very neatly do the cable management.

Long story short, I don't doubt that a quality sturdy rig is better. But since this thread is about budget sim racing, I don't necessarily agree with your statement. Those cheaper wheel stands aren't always and upgrade. Mine also had pretty good reviews so I was surprised it was more of a sidegrade if not downgrade. And my desks aren't super expensive either, around 100 EUR if not less.
 
I had the csl elite, which are very inaccurate due to their load cell placement that measures the bending of the pedal arm, not the pressure at the bottom.

They were a major upgrade coming from the T3PA's. I can be very consistent in them (at least on the 90Kg rubbers). Only issue I've had was the potentiometer gas pedal sometimes needed some dust blown out or it would be jittery on the low end of input. At least the new version uses hal sensors.

I have yet to find out if my experience will fall in line with yours, maybe when I've had some time on the V3's.

I'm used to the 3 pedal evenly spaced out layout. Though I mostly do left foot braking, to the point I have a hard time braking with my right. (same with lower max brake force on Fanalab to accommodate someone new to sim racing that was on my rig, because the muscle memory doesn't work anymore on those settings). So pedal placement of the V3's shouldn't be an issue for me. I do race all kinds of cars and in the shifter mode they are meant to be driven, but I've yet to do proper downshifting on H-pattern mode (heel toe and all).

For me the new CSL Elites look better technically but worse esthetically than the old ones. Because I can be very consistent with the old version, side/up-grading to the new seemed a bit pointless to me. But hey, I might be completely wrong :)
 
Premium
I wrote this a couple of times before, but:

In my opinion most "aluminium profile sim rig kits" out there are vastly oversized, convoluted and by this hella expensive. I use a Simucube on whats basically just a 40x40 ladder base with a single 40x80 arc for the wheelbase, and its perfectly fine with no noticeable flex or instability. The most strength needed is tensile, for what you can bring up in braking force, and for that you don't need multiple layers of 40x80 on top of each other. For most entry level wheels and pedals even a wooden rig is probably 100& fine and doable with home tools.

Also, instead of buying a "sim racing replica" seat, look out for real seats on ebay, clearance sales etc, or visit your local scrap yard. Much cheaper and probably of better quality anyway.
 
Last edited:
Personally I would advise against single pole wheelstands such as the Wheelstand Pro models as I found them not really stable enough. Sure they'll work if that's all you have space for, but even on the lowest torque wheels they are going to wobble.

I went for the Playseat Challenge within a month of having a wheelstand.

All was not lost with the wheelstand though - I got in contact with the manufacturer and was able to buy some extra parts to turn it into my flight sim rig, and it works incredibly well in that scenario.
 
Think the T-300 is an excellent mid-budget choice, yes mid-budget because you can get a base/wheel/pedal set below €100,- . For starters that are going for the T300, I would advice, always go for the https://www.thrustmaster.com/en-us/products/t300-ferrari-integral-racing-wheel-alcantara-edition/ Its has an slightly bigger steering wheel, does have not that all plastic wheel rim and for European citizens it contains a 3 pedals set, on the otherhand for US maybe the 2 pedal set could be sufficient.

This was an advice I did get from an racing guy on Hardware.info and admitting never regret that for going to this specific T300 model and not the plastic wheel T300 2 pedal version nor the much cheaper G29. I only have noticed the T300 prices are become a bit higher. :-(
 
Last edited:
Premium
One of my most used accessories is a sub $20 phone/tablet holder that's meant to mount on bicycle handlebars. Works great on the tubing for a next level GT rig as a live leaderboard/map. Plus then I can see if the texts I'm missing are important or not :)

Another similarly priced addition is an external numberpad. If you don't have a shifter or wheel with a lot of buttons, or just need more, these can easily be used as is (mapping keys in game) or you can customize it further in autohotkeys or something similar.
 
My almost 10 years old second hand G27 and a local manufactured wheel stand are still solid as a rock.

Only now, almost a decade later I've decided to start with small upgrades, starting with a proper racing seat. It's due to arrive this monday and I can't wait to put my hands and butt cheeks on it. I'm sure it'll be a nice upgrade from this battered old office chair I've been using for years...
 

Latest News

Article information

Author
Jermaine Smit
Article read time
1 min read
Views
22,850
Comments
56
Last update

What is the reason for your passion for sim racing?

  • Watching real motorsport

    Votes: 262 67.7%
  • Physics and mechanics

    Votes: 175 45.2%
  • Competition and adrenaline

    Votes: 186 48.1%
  • Practice for real racing

    Votes: 81 20.9%
  • Community and simracers

    Votes: 105 27.1%
Back
Top